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Canadian international merchandise trade, March 2013

Released: 2013-05-02

Canada's merchandise exports increased 5.1% in March and imports rose 1.7%. As a result, Canada's trade balance went from a deficit of $1.2 billion in February to a surplus of $24 million in March.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Exports and imports - Description and data table
Exports and imports

Chart 1: Exports and imports - Description and data table

Exports grew to $40.5 billion in March, and have been on an upward trend since July 2012. Gains were recorded in all sections during the month and export volumes were up 5.1%.

Imports rose for a third consecutive month to reach $40.4 billion, their second highest value on record. The main contributors to the monthly increase were energy products and metal and non-metallic mineral products. Overall, prices grew 1.4% and volumes were up 0.3%.

Exports to the United States rose 4.0% to $29.5 billion in March, on higher exports of motor vehicles and parts and energy products. Imports from the United States were up 2.0% to $25.6 billion, a third consecutive monthly advance. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus with the United States increased from $3.2 billion in February to $3.8 billion in March.

Exports to countries other than the United States rose 7.9% to $11.0 billion in March. All principal trading areas registered gains, with Japan (+25.2%) recording the largest percentage increase. Imports from countries other than United States grew 1.2% to $14.8 billion. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States decreased from $4.4 billion in February to $3.8 billion in March.

Higher volumes lead increase in exports

Exports of energy products rose 3.9% to $9.1 billion in March, mainly because of a 24.8% increase in volumes of natural gas. Exports of this commodity group have been on an upward trend since May 2012, primarily the result of higher prices. Also contributing to the rise in exports of energy products were refined petroleum energy products and other energy products.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts increased 6.1% to $5.8 billion, as volumes were up 4.8% and prices rose 1.2%. All groups recorded an increase in value, led by passenger cars and light trucks (+6.2%).

Exports of consumer goods rose 5.6% to $4.3 billion, as a result of higher volumes and prices. Exports of food, beverage and tobacco products were the main contributors to the gain, up 14.4% to a record high of $2.0 billion.

Exports of metal ores and non-metallic minerals rose 13.2% to $1.7 billion in March. Copper ores and concentrates contributed the most to the increase, the result of higher volumes (+94.9%).

Exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts increased 13.4% to $1.5 billion, on higher volumes. Aircraft, aircraft engines and aircraft parts rose for a third consecutive month to lead the overall increase in this section.

Widespread gains in imports

Imports of energy products increased 7.5% to $3.8 billion in March, as volumes rose 4.9%, and prices were up 2.5%. Higher imports of crude oil and crude bitumen led the way, increasing 18.1% to $2.5 billion after three consecutive monthly declines.

Imports of metal and non-metallic mineral products rose 5.8% to $3.5 billion. Widespread gains in the section were led by unwrought precious metal and precious metal alloys, which increased 21.8% entirely on higher volumes.

Imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts were up 15.8% to $1.2 billion in March. The increase was the result of higher volumes (+13.9%).

Imports of motor vehicles and parts rose 2.4% to $7.0 billion, their highest value since July 2012. An increase in imports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts (+4.6%) was the main contributor to the monthly gain. Volumes of motor vehicles and parts increased 1.3% and prices were up 1.1%.

In contrast, imports of basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products declined 8.1% to $3.2 billion in March, on lower volumes (-9.7%). Imports of lubricants and other petroleum refinery products, as well as basic chemicals posted the largest declines.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Trade balance - Description and data table
Trade balance

Chart 2: Trade balance - Description and data table

  Note to readers

Merchandise trade is one component of Canada's international balance of payments (BOP), which also includes trade in services, investment income, current transfers as well as capital and financial flows.

International merchandise trade data by country are available on both a BOP and a customs basis for the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. Trade data for all other individual countries are available on a customs basis only. BOP data are derived from customs data by making adjustments for factors such as valuation, coverage, timing and residency. These adjustments are made to conform to the concepts and definitions of the Canadian System of National Accounts.

Data in this release are on a BOP basis, seasonally adjusted and in current dollars. Constant dollars are calculated using the Laspeyres volume formula (2007=100).

For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.


In general, merchandise trade data are revised on an ongoing basis for each month of the current year. Current year revisions are reflected in both the customs and BOP based data.

The previous year's customs data are revised with the release of the January and February reference months as well as on a quarterly basis. The previous two years of customs based data are revised annually and are released in February with the December reference month.

The previous year's BOP based data are revised with the release of the January, February and March reference months. Revisions to BOP based data for the previous three years are released annually in June with the April reference month.

Factors influencing revisions include late receipt of import and export documentation, incorrect information on customs forms, replacement of estimates produced for the energy section with actual figures, changes in classification of merchandise based on more current information, and changes to seasonal adjustment factors.

Revised data are available in the appropriate CANSIM tables.

These data are now available in the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database (Catalogue number65F0013X). From the Browse by key resource module of our website, choose Publications.

The March 2013 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 67, no. 3 (Catalogue number65-001-X), is also available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Current account data (which incorporate merchandise trade statistics, service transactions, investment income and transfers) are available quarterly in Canada's Balance of International Payments (Catalogue number67-001-X).

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for April will be released on June 4.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marc Nadeau (613-951-3692), International Trade Division.

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